No Mask Laws in Florida: Where you still need a mask in South Florida, Despite DeSantis’ new ‘no local ordinance’ law
While Florida never had any statewide coronavirus-related mandates or restrictions, local governments did. Those of us who live in South Florida are well aware of the mask mandates in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.
RELATED BLOG: Why mask mandates do not violate your first amendment rights.
When people fought Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 mask mandate, an appeals court found that the county can NOT be blocked from enforcing its COVID-19 mask mandate.
Gov. DeSantis Suspends All Local COVID-related Emergency Orders in Florida with a Stroke of a Pen
DeSantis eliminated South Florida’s mask mandates and all other COOVID-19 related safety measures on May 3 with an executive order that was to be effective immediately, according to the Sun Sentinel.
This means that local counties and cities can no longer impose mask mandates or other restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
His reasoning was that “he doesn’t consider the state to be in a crisis anymore with vaccine now in ample supply,” the Sun Sentinel reported.
Ample supply does not mean widespread vaccination, however, and only about 30% of Floridians are fully vaccinated and only about 42% of the state has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.
He also signed something that would allow him to invalidate local COVID-19 emergency orders and give authority to override pandemic orders issued by governors in the future in the event of another pandemic.
On the same day DeSantis signed this order, it was announced that the cases related to ‘variants of concern’ in Florida had more than doubled.
More than 10,000 ‘variants of concern’ cases were reported May 3 while through May 1, Miami-Dade had about 2,200 concerning variant cases, Broward had about 2,000 and Palm Beach had 685 cases.
Only 1% of all COVID cases undergo testing to determine their genetic coding, it’s likely the actual numbers of variant case infections are much higher in Florida.
The Tri-County area of South Florida is not a fan of DeSantis’ Decision
“Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said he ‘vehemently disagrees’ with DeSantis’ action, and he thinks local officials should be able to decide what is best for the communities they represent,” Sun Sentinel reported.
Broward County has more than 40-pages of pandemic-related orders and had planned to lift restrictions based on science, health metrics, and consultation with the CDC, local hospitals and public health experts. Now, the choice on how to reopen safely isn’t in its hands. Meanwhile, Florida still has a COVID-19 positivity rate of about 8% as of early May.
Palm Beach County reported that it will review the order. Previously, courts found that Palm Beach could NOT be stopped from enforcing its mask mandate.
“Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she is ‘deeply concerned’ about the governor’s announcement and urged the public to continue following health guidelines,” Sun Sentinel reported.
In an interview with WLRN, Levine Cava said DeSantis’ executive order cannot restrict what the county requires on its own property – such as government buildings and libraries.
She said that masking and social distancing will continue at county properties, saying “We’re doing those things that are critical to make sure that our public is safe.”
Only 40% of all adults in Miami-Dade are fully vaccinated.
“We have been going in the right direction. Positivity is down, hospitalization is down, but we’re not there yet,” Levine Cava told WLRN.
“Fewer than half of our residents have been vaccinated, and we face a growing threat from variants,” Levine Cava continued.
Where you Still Need a Mask in South Florida:
Just Because DeSantis says Governments can make any coronavirus mandates, businesses still can.
- Florida businesses can keep mask mandates and requirements in place
- Businesses still have the authority to require customers to wear masks in their establishments
- Publix, for example, announced it will not be changing its mask policy at this time.
- Many small businesses have decided to keep mask mandates in place, while some have decided to make it optional.
You will still need a mask at these places in South Florida:
- Miami-Dade and Broward City & County government buildings
- Supermarkets – Publix, Trader Joes, Fresh Market, Aldi, and Winn-Dixie all reported their mask mandates will stay for now.
- Public Schools – “Students in South Florida’s public schools must wear masks. Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade school districts all say they still require them,” according to Sun Sentinel.
- Airports – All three of South Florida’s major airports (Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Palm Beach) still require masks.
- Sporting Events
- Restaurants – each can decide, but it’s best to assume masks are required or to call ahead to find out.
- Drug Stores
Condo Buildings can also Continue to Require Masks
Even though local governments are now barred from requiring masks and social distancing, condo associations can continue to mandate them for residents and visitors, according to Sun Sentinel.
Technically, the state of emergency in Florida is active until June 27; which means that volunteer boards can use their emergency powers to continue to impose rules for the safety of their residents. Even after June 27, the board’s emergency powers can remain in effect for a period of time that is reasonably necessary.
Condos are also private property, so while municipalities cannot require masks and social distancing – businesses can. The ruling doesn’t apply to the private sector.
Mask Mandates Eliminated Despite New Coronavirus Variants Hitting South Florida
A new mutation of the Brazilian COVID variant is in Broward, as reported on May 6.
Florida has the most coronavirus cases caused by variants in the entire United States.
The new coronavirus variant is highly contagious and was first discovered in Brazil. If it behaves in Florida like it did in Brazil, it could spread to younger people who previously had more mild cases of COVID-19, Sun Sentinel reported.
These new mutations could also make current variants in Florida either less or more aggressive.
“For now, vaccines remain critical to controlling the spread of variants in Florida, said Dr. Dushyantha Jayaweera, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. We need to keep vaccinating because even if we don’t have reduced efficacy against infection from variants, you will at least get good protection against severe illness,’” according to Sun Sentinel.